Article appeared in Therapy Weekly, 1 February 2001
The collaboration between the Bowen Technique and conventional medicine indicates a subtle shift away from a drug-dependent medical culture to one that recognises the benefits of treating the whole person, says Paula Esson The Bowen Technique is a relatively new arrival on the complementary therapy scene. Developed in the 1950Â?s by Australian Tom Bowen, it utilises small rolling type movements over muscle and connective tissue to release energy. The role of myofascial and viscerofascial release in management of movement dysfunction and pain relief is rapidly becoming a widely-accepted treatment modality, moving away from hard tissue manipulation to achieve results. The technique is well established in Australia, where it is taught to final year osteopathy students, and it is developing fast in the United Kingdom under the management of the European College of Bowen Studies (E.C.B.S.). BowenÂ?s popularity lies in the simplicity of the technique. There is no need for equipment nor any strenuous input from practitioner or patient, making the modality highly versatile.
A key and unique feature is the time gaps during treatment - a set of moves are put into the body and the patient is then left to rest alone for two to four minutes, allowing the body time to assimilate the information. This has an added benefit in that a treatment session can last 45 minutes for the patient, but the practitioner will be able to see up to three people simultaneously.
Bowen addresses a wide range of ailments, ranging from musculoskeletal dysfunction to headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and sleeping problems. The most striking results are usually seen in improvements of general well-being, allowing the Bowen approach to be holistic. Research has shown that vast improvements in cases of frozen shoulder and similar dysfunction, with movement in these conditions responding well to Bowen even when conventional methods have had only a limited effect. It is suggested that the gentle and non-invasive Bowen technique creates a signal that the brain tries to interpret. Much of the day-to-day information received by the brain is unremarkable so when a different sensation is introduced to the body the brain searches for a file to place it. And when the signal cannot be identified, stimulation occurs to the nerve endings. Patients will talk of a range of sensations, such as tingling, heat, cold, heaviness, lightness and a sense of deep relaxation - beyond the experience of massage.
The changes that occur in smooth muscle function and the surrounding fascia settle when the person stands. The general effect is a change in proprioception and movement patterns. Patients will say without auto-suggestion that they feel better balanced and in control of their bodies, and that they feel looser and straighter. Other patients will leave in the same pain with which they arrived and may occasionally become worse in the following days as adaptation to the musculoskeletal system takes place. However, in most cases the presenting problem improves progressively after 48 hours. Occasionally re-injury occurs and here the practitioner will closely examine the patientÂ?s lifestyle to locate and adjust the dysfunction pattern.
The Bowen Technique has many positive attributes - it is very straightforward, gentle, effective and economical. Most presentations can be managed within three sessions, achieving an 80 to 90 per cent success rate in clinic. There are now 300 accredited practitioners in the UK, and great interest is being shown in the modality by conventional medical practitioners. More and more physiotherapists and doctors are incorporating the technique into their working lives as an excellent additional or primary tool for addressing dysfunction.
The Durham clinic is an exciting initiative with Claypath Medical Group, which acknowledges BowenÂ?s important role in a busy practice. The collaboration between Bowen and conventional, orthodox medicine is indicative of a subtle shift away from a drug-dependent medical culture to one that recognises the benefits of treating the whole person. The Durham clinic will see between 40 and 50 people a week, mostly by word of mouth and referral.
Individuals who have visited it specifically for Bowen have provided these case studies: Achilles tendon inflammation - Â?I recently changed my running shoes and began to notice an uncomfortable strain down my left Achilles. On finishing each run the area would burn and be painful for some hours later. Â?This developed until running became impossible without pain. Direct work with massage and other hands-on approaches to the area created little relief. On seeing a Bowen practitioner a suggestion was made that the problem could be coming from the sacroiliac joint in the lower back. Three sessions working in this area gave permanent relief. I now see the practitioner only if I am preparing for a big race.Â? - David Jacobs, 32, County Durham Frozen Shoulder - Â?As conventional medicine was struggling to alleviate the restriction and pain, I was advised by a rheumatologist to seek alternative help. I tried everything from aromatherapy to osteopathy but nothing helped. Â?Recently I tried the Bowen Technique and after four sessions I was amazed to feel the pain and restriction fade. Now I have Bowen once every few months to keep up the health benefits.Â? - Shelli Wilson, 29 Co. Durham
For more information on the Claypath Bowen Clinic, contact Paula Esson on 07780 900283/0191 333 2830. For details on training courses and the frozen shoulder research programme contact Louise Atwill at the European College of Bowen Studies (E.C.B.S.) on 01373 461 873. Paula Esson is a Bowen Technique therapist at the Claypath Complementary Centre, County Durham
About the author:Article written by Janie Godfrey
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